During my career I've been on both sides of the deal - buying and selling. Both present interesting challenges and ultimately there is leap of faith on both sides to make a deal work. In my opinion, the deals that don't work can be boiled down to a lack of openness and transparency.
Lack of openness and transparency is usually attributed to the selling side of the deal:
"Show them enough to be interested!"
"Don't show them how the sausage is made!"
"Sell the sizzle!"
The buyer gets excited (usually around a fancy UI/UX, or pretty powerpoint slides) and boom off we go. Only to be in a figurative hell two months later when it becomes apparent that whatever was behind those slides and screenshots was either still being built or never existed in the first place. It's a horrible place to be and could've been avoided with an open discussion.
The flip side is on the buying side - if you cloud your RFP process in secrecy and only give out high-level details and don't really show your bidders what's on the other side of the curtain - you only have yourself to blame when the winning bid comes back with massive scope changes.
BE OPEN and TRANSPARENT - RADICALLY
Two stories from my career:
Big agency pitch to a large OEM and I'm on the selling side on the delivery team. Our pitch was an exciting, riveting, work of fiction that somehow was going to be delivered in 90 days - and the prospective client was motivated to award us the business in thinking it was based on truth. The pitch was a classic example of smoke and mirrors and those on the delivery side - were thinking "What happens if we win this?"
The nightmare happened - we won. The client team was celebrating and the clients were eager to unleash the solution and the delivery team was scared out of their minds. After the clients left the building, our President addressed the delivery team, "Okay, team. Make truths out of my lies."
To this day, I get a pit in my stomach remembering that scene. I'll save you the gory details but let's just say that the client relationship was a challenge, delivery took more like 190 days and we delivered about 50% of what was promised.
I learned an obvious lesson in that, had we just said - "Hey we have a better solution today than you have, and our road map is going to deliver these features over the next several months, quarters, etc. Partner with us and we will accomplish great things together." Things would've gone a whole lot better.
Perhaps we wouldn't have won the deal - you say? Perhaps. But we wouldn't damage our reputation or get so consumed on delivery that we couldn't take on anything else. The unintended consequences of all of that are still being felt today in that company.
I'm on the buying side - looking at a development firm to work on a large piece of business. The CEO, COO, CTO of our company come along with me for a site visit to evaluate the firm. We take a tour that goes into every area of the business. We spend the day talking to line employees about aspects of their job. We see the good and the not so good in the walkthrough.
At the end of the day, we are discussing the deal and the COO points to the fact that the firm isn't that big and that we have concerns about their financial viability. The firms CEO and founder says - "Come with me!" Takes us back to the accounting office and literally has the controller walk us through their books. AR/AP, full balance sheet - everything.
It was a great moment and one that showed me that being open is a good thing. If the relationship isn't a fit, it isn't a fit - but make that decision on all of the facts - not just on the beauty of a PowerPoint.
Stop lying! Trust that you will sleep better at night, get better solutions presented to you, win the right business for you - if you open up and tell the truth.
If you think of every breakdown you've had in your career - chances are it's due to lack of trust and transparency. We can do better.
If you want to learn more on this topic, I recommend the following:
Ray Dalio's book - Principles: Life and Work - Click Here
Rich Sheridan's book - Chief Joy Officer - Click Here